Ass and Name
Zola and Zoilus
A few Neos
What's in a Nem?
Pleo III-Two More Pleons
Achron.. and Acroam..
Per IV--Perpotation et al.
Per and Pre--Prevenient
Perpense and Perpend
Epi I--Epiplexis, et al.
The Doric Column
Epi III--Episemon et al.
Tox--A Really Sharp Word
Everyone knows that "tox" must somehow relate to poison because our word where the root occurs most frequently, toxic, signifies "poisonous" or "due to poisoning." Toxic entered into our vocabularies in a big way after passage of environmental legislation in the 1970s and our resultant fear of pollution from "toxic wastes." But the word sounds both so jarring and picturesque when said that it became useful in other circumstances: we spoke of "toxic relationships" or even "toxic faith." I also think we use the sound "ks," like "sph" or "spl" because it is just so delightful to pronounce.
Playing with Poison
Of course it primarily has a scientific usage, and the number of words building off the root "tox" or "toxico" or "toxo" is huge indeed. The study of poisons is, not unexpectedly, toxicology. In this study a toxicologist will measure the toxicity, or poisonous strength, of some substance. If you wanted another word for poison, you could call it a toxicant; an intoxicant, therefore, is a substance that produces a poisonous effect within or inside of a person. There is one attestation of extoxicant which, rather than referring to something that might suck the poison "out" (ex) in fact is a synonym for intoxicant.
Then we can put toxico together with a ton of common suffixes to form a bevy of useful terms. We have seen that toxicology is the study of poisons, but we find that something may be toxicophagous, like the stuff they throw into polluted water that is supposed to eat poison. Try it as a term of endearment on occasion, "Oh you toxicophagous creature, you..." If you are afraid of poisons, you are not only a normal person but you are also toxicophobic.
We run into the slightest of wee problems when we realize we can use the root toxo as well as toxico to form words relating to poisons. Both, the dictionary tells us, are used in the pathology, so there doesn't seem to be a clear explanation of when you can throw in the co to make your word. For example, with just using the tox root, we have toxophore, something that bears or carries poison, or toxinfectious, involving infection by a toxin. There is no overlap between the words formed off the different roots; when in doubt, however, go with toxico--except if you are a Linnean and need to name things beginning with tox, and then you usually just build off tox or toxo (space doesn't permit me to introduce these creatures and plants here).
A Potential Problem
But then we run into something that seems to be a problem when we turn to toxophil which, not unexpectedly, means "having affinity for a toxin" (a bit lighter than actually loving poison but it seems that we might coin the term and make it somewhat synonymous with 'masochist,' which means a lover of [self-inflicted] pain). But a toxophilite is not defined as one who loves poison but one who loves archery, of all things. We can take a stab at using this term more widely, and then we come up with toxophilism or toxophily--the practice of or addiction to archery. What is the connection, if any between archery and a poison?
The Greek word for bow is "toxon" and something bow-like or pertaining to the bow is "toxikos." But when guys went into war they discovered that it was far more effective against the enemy to smear a little poison on the end of the arrow, thus making toxicon pharmakon a poison for (smearing) arrows. As early as a 1657 physical dictionary the combined sense of poison and arrow in the English word toxicum entered into our language: "Toxicum, a venom or poyson where with arrows are poisoned."
But, just as the word migrated from archer/archery in the Greek to the Latin word for poison and into English to mean, primarily, something relating to poison, there are still some catchy English words beginning with tox that maintain their connection to the original Greek. It is like a family that grew up in Kansas with five kids, four of whom eventually decided to move to California and only one stayed behind in Kansas. Though you might be California-cute, you can't remove the traces of Kansas completely from your system.
A Few Remnants of the Greek
So, in addition to a toxophilite (one might have expected toxiphilist or toxophile but this isn't attested), one has toxology, which means the study of the bow or archery. I bet if you asked a ton of people at a university what toxology meant, they would all say, "the study of poisons," with the really bright ones saying, "like toxicology." But they would all be wrong. Then, there is my favorite "bow-term:" toxarch meaning the "lord of the bow," which specifically refers to the captain of the city-guard of mercenaries at Athens. I would like to expand its meaning to any guy who can hit the target from afar--who is truly "Lord of the Bow." The Shakers may have their "Lord of the Dance;" William Golding might have his "Lord of the Flies," Tolkien and Tolkien-aficionados might have the "Lord of the Rings," but I will always be enthralled by a toxarch--the Lord of the Bow.
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long